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Clark v. Gilbert

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 24, 2019

ERNEST FRANKLIN CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
J. PHIL GILBERT and UNKNOWN NAMED OFFICERS OF THE COURT, Defendants.

          ORDER SCREENING COMPLAINT, GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYING FILING FEE (DKT. NO. 2) AND STAYING (ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSING) CASE PENDING RESOLUTION OF APPEAL IN SEVENTH CIRCUIT CASE NO. 18-1615

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Butner Federal Medical Center, is representing himself. He filed a complaint alleging that the defendants violated his civil rights. Dkt. No. 1. This decision resolves the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee, dkt. no. 2, and stays his case pending resolution of his appeal in another case, Clark v. United States, No. 18-1615 (7th Cir. filed March 19, 2018).

         I. Motion for Leave to Proceed without Prepaying the Filing Fee (Dkt. No. 2)

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. 28 U.S.C. §1915. That law allows a court to give an incarcerated plaintiff the ability to proceed with his case without prepaying the civil case filing fee if he meets certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the plaintiff pay an initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b). Once the plaintiff pays the initial partial filing fee, the court may allow the plaintiff to pay the balance of the $350 filing fee over time, through deductions from his prisoner account. Id.

         On May 18, 2018, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $23.29. Dkt. No. 10. The court received that fee on June 15, 2018. The court will grant the plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, and will allow him to pay the remaining balance of the filing fee over time in the manner explained at the end of this order.

         II. Screening the Plaintiff's Complaint

         A. Federal Screening Standard

         The law requires the court to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff raises claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         B. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff has sued J. Phil Gilbert, a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. He also has sued “Unknown Named Officers of the Court.” Id. at 1.

         The plaintiff alleges that Judge Gilbert acted “beyond the limits of 28 U.S.C. §§ 291, et seq., to deprive the plaintiff of his federal rights.” Dkt. No. 1 at 3. He alleges that Judge Gilbert is not a resident judge of the Eastern District of Wisconsin and does not have the authority to exercise “such jurisdiction unless expressly conferred and limited by 28 U.S.C. §§ 291, et seq.” Dkt. No. 1 at 3.

         The plaintiff alleges that, under 28 U.S.C. §291, et seq., Judge Gilbert was temporarily designated to the Eastern District of Wisconsin for the limited purpose of conducting the trial on case number 11-CR-30, and that the temporary designation expired at the end of the trial. Dkt. No. 1 at 3-4. The plaintiff states that after the expiration of the temporary designation, and after Judge Gilbert returned to his home district in Illinois, the plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §2255 in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Id. at 4. The plaintiff contends that even though the chief judge of the circuit did not issue a second designation under §291 for Judge Gilbert to preside over the habeas petition, defendants Unknown Named Officers of the Court transferred and forwarded the habeas petition to Judge Gilbert in the Southern District of Illinois. Id. The plaintiff states that while sitting in his home district in Illinois, and without the issuance of a second designation under §291, Judge Gilbert presided over and rendered judgment on the habeas petition that the plaintiff filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Id.

         The plaintiff claims that defendants Unknown Officers of the Court denied his due process rights in violation of the Fifth Amendment when they caused the habeas petition to be heard in a “foreign court, ” contrary to the terms of 28 U.S.C. §2255, and thus without authority. Id. He also claims that defendants Unknown Officers of the Court caused the habeas petition to be considered by an individual who “was not authorized to act on behalf of the Sovereign, ” which constituted ...


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